This Thanksgiving week, I am having a hard time wrapping my heart and mind around a sense of gratitude. It’s not that I’m ungrateful; quite the opposite, really. I could not be more grateful for all that I’ve been lucky enough to have access to in this lifetime: food, clothing, shelter, a loving family and enough extra for nights of fun and entertainment.
But what I’m especially struggling with is my personal sense of gratitude vs. the needs of the world. While I’m able to celebrate Thanksgiving surrounded by a warm home, plenty of food, and a loving family, it is not lost on me that the majority of the credit for my life of comfort has nearly everything to do with my birth into a white, middle-class family in the United States. Had I been born in an impoverished country, I might be part of a hunger statistic. Had I been born in a low-income family here in the U.S., my ability to escape poverty would most certainly be impeded by multiple structural barriers. And, my race has definitely afforded me many privileges I don’t even have to think about.
Every year as I approach Thanksgiving, I find myself wondering why the circumstances surrounding my birth should afford me access to things others do not have access to; privileges others do not have. But no matter how I try to think about this question or discern it, I always come down on the side of this truth: they shouldn’t.
So, this year I hope to approach the Thanksgiving table a little differently. Rather than a prayer of gratitude where I list off all the things I’m grateful for in my life – all the things I have access to that others don’t – this Thanksgiving, my prayer will be a renewed commitment to doing everything I can to end hunger.
The poet and author, Mary Oliver, has said, “That God has a plan for us, I have no doubt. But what if God’s plan is for us to do better?” This Thanksgiving, my personal prayer will be to “do better”; to do what is in my power to change systems and structures that prevent hungry people from getting access to food and other basic necessities.
I will also be offering a prayer for all of you. I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is peaceful and filled with lots of quality time with family/friends. And I pray that you will join me in a commitment to “do better.”